Archives for January 2012

DIY Satellites and Filesharing Religions: #SOPA’s new enemies

Going off of my colleague Ron Davis’ post about technological reasons to oppose that monstrosity known as SOPA (and it’s Senate twin, PIPA), here are a couple of news stories from earlier in the month to share with you. I am a bit late on these, I admit, but I want to place them here just to show how ineffectual SOPA will actually be.

The first “solution” will probably fail and end in misery and a fireball, but you have to give some credit to these guys: a group of hackers want to send up a satellite that will act as an independent file-sharing server, a sort of space age Sealand:


The scheme was outlined at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin.

The project’s organisers said the Hackerspace Global Grid will also involve developing a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites.

Longer term they hope to help put an amateur astronaut on the moon.

Hobbyists have already put a few small satellites into orbit - usually only for brief periods of time - but tracking the devices has proved difficult for low-budget projects.

The hacker activist Nick Farr first put out calls for people to contribute to the project in August. He said that the increasing threat of internet censorship had motivated the project.

“The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let’s take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities,” Mr Farr said.

He cited the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the United States as an example of the kind of threat facing online freedom. If passed, the act would allow for some sites to be blocked on copyright grounds.

Will Anti-Romney Conservatives Finally Embrace Paul?

When Ron Paul’s campaign urged the other GOP candidates yesterday to drop out and endorse him, I wondered if a two man race was really in Paul’s best interest. It’s possible that anti-Romney conservatives will unite behind Paul to defeat Romney. But it’s also possible that Paul is still a step too far for many conservatives. Once their candidates have left the field, they could instead unite behind Romney and his nomination would become even more inevitable than it appears after winning Iowa and New Hampshire.

The other candidates have unquestionably helped hold Romney back from winning majorities in either Iowa or New Hampshire. But are they also holding back Paul? More importantly, if they exit the race will any of them actually endorse Paul and will their supporters unite behind him to defeat Romney?

It’s unclear whether any of the other GOP candidates would endorse Paul. That either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum would do so seems unlikely in the extreme. Whatever song they may be singing these days, they have both been solid, card-carrying members of the Republican establishment for a very long time and both their records and their current proposals are far more compatible with Romney’s than Paul’s. That said, the possibility that Rick Perry or Jon Huntsman might endorse Paul isn’t so far-fetched. Perry and Huntsman have both been burned by the establishment this go-round and many of their views are more consistent with Paul’s libertarianism than Romney’s establishment conservatism. It helps, too, that Huntsman and Perry have been among Romney’s most vocal critics throughout this race.

Moving on from New Hamphire

In my brief primer yesterday on the New Hampshire primary, I noted that Mitt Romney needed at least 40% of the vote in order for his “win” not to be considered a “loss.” By that I mean that conservatives in the anti-Romney faction of the GOP were going to point to that as a “proof” that Romney winning the nomination isn’t inevitable.

With 98% of precincts reporting, Romney won 39.3% of the vote — a slightly higher percentage that John McCain took in 2008. While it’s not quite 40%, based on what I’m hearing and reading this more from many anti-Romney conservatives (many of whom where firmly behind him four years ago), it’s close for them to read the writing on the wall.

So what does this mean? I suspect that we’re about to see things get very nasty with Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich stepping up their attacks Romney. Rick Perry will probably wind up attacking everyone, particularly Gingrich and Romney.

Huntsman’s has a ceiling. If he doesn’t catch fire in the next two or three weeks, he’ll have a tough time justifying sticking around until Super Tuesday. That’s just reality. You may say, “Well, he finished third in New Hampshire. That counts for something.” No, it doesn’t. Huntsman based in campaign there. That’s why his poor showing in Iowa didn’t matter.

For Huntsman, a third place finish in New Hampshire is no better than finishing last since Gingrich, Romney, and Santorum weren’t really contesting the state. Those three have their eyes set on South Carolina, where Huntsman isn’t going to be nearly as competitive. He will, at best, cut into Romney’s numbers and possibly hand the state to Santorum or Gingrich.

8 Political Reasons to Stop SOPA & PIPA

My post from earlier today, 8 Technological Reasons to Stop SOPA & PIPA, discussed the legitimate technological problems with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). These bills are supposed to be an attempt at stopping online piracy, but as I mentioned yesterday, they will not work but will instead cause harm to the speed, reliability, security, and safety of the Internet.

There are also political reasons this legislation should not be supported. Here are eight of them:

SOPA and PIPA will not stop piracy. It’s even a stretch to argue that they would impact it at all. I explained how earlier, but the technical details aren’t important to today’s point. If proposed legislation will obviously not accomplish its stated purpose, it should never pass. This one point alone should be enough for your congressman and senators to oppose it. In case it’s not enough, keep reading; I have seven more reasons.

SOPA and PIPA mandate censorship compliance. When a domain name is seized by the government, ISPs are forced to comply with the censorship. There is no option of appeal for the ISPs; they must comply.

The method of seizing domain names lacks due process for the accused. These bills take a “guilty until innocent” approach to Internet censorship. If the site that has been seized is truly not violating copyrights, the owner can follow a process to get his site restored, but this process is backward from what the Fifth Amendment would require. Voting for legislation which so obviously ignores the Fifth Amendment would be a violation of the oath of office for any legislator.

Drones: The Opposite of Nukes

Cato Unbound’s new January 2012 edition is on the effects of drone warfare and the implications for future American policy. (For those of you unaware, Cato Unbound is run by the Cato Institute, and is a scholarly project that solicits papers from academics and intellectuals on a monthly theme. Scholar A will write a lead essay, the other scholars respond, and then there’s a conversation. It’s sort of like a presidential debate, only intelligent.)

The lead writer for this month is David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. (Try saying that five times fast.) He argues that having drone weapons increases the likelihood that political leaders will start conflicts, because they’re easy to use:


The rise of drone warfare has stirred strong passions and sparked a vigorous debate about the morality of unmanned weapons systems. The first and most important question is whether drone technology makes war more likely. Are decisionmakers more prone to employ military force if they have accurate weapons that are easier to use and do not risk the lives of their service members? The use of these weapons creates the false impression that war can be fought cheaply and at lower risk. They transform the very meaning of war from an act of national sacrifice and mobilization to a distant almost unnoticeable process of robotic strikes against a secretive “kill list.” Do these factors lower the political threshold for going to war?

National Review, Ron Paul defend Mitt Romney against anti-capitalist attacks

We’re beginning to see some backlash against Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry’s (and to a lesser extent, Jon Huntsman) anti-capitalist attacks against Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. The National Review, an influential voice in the conservative movement, lashed out at Romney’s critics:

Gingrich and Perry have between them about eleven minutes’ worth of relevant private-sector experience — Perry being subsidized by the federal government to farm cotton, Gingrich subsidizing himself by farming his political connections — and therefore may not know (or care) what a private-equity firm such as Bain does. (Gingrich might consider asking his friends at leveraged-buyout firm Forstmann Little, where he was on the board.) Bain is involved in, among other things, leveraged buyouts, meaning that the firm and its investors borrow money from banks to acquire companies, usually firms that are in trouble but believed to be salvageable. These firms generally are bought on the theory that they represent fundamentally sound underlying business enterprises that are for one reason or another performing deficiently, usually because of incompetent management. Strong, thriving companies rarely are targets for leveraged-buyout acquisitions — if things are going well, there is no incentive to sell the company. If the firms are publicly traded, they often are taken private, their stocks delisted from the exchanges, and then reorganized. Once the company has been returned to profitability, it is taken public again or sold to a private buyer, in the hopes of turning a profit on the deal.

8 Technological Reasons to Stop SOPA & PIPA

There’s legislation in the House and Senate right now that is very troubling to me. In the House, it’s called the Stop Online Piracy Act (abbreviated SOPA); in the Senate, it’s called PROTECT IP (or PIPA). The goal of the legislation is to stop online piracy, which is definitely a problem. The Senate will be voting on it later this month, and for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in awe at the absurdity of this legislation while trying to find a proper way to respond to it.

I’m a freedom loving, Constitution defending, small government guy who writes my own personal opinion about politics (which, for the record, may or may not always be the view of my employer). My day job (the one that actually pays bills) is as a systems administrator for a very large company. I’ve spent the vast majority of the last 13 years since my college graduation dealing with the technology of the Internet, and I know it quite well.

My career in IT and my fondness for liberty make me one of a relatively small number of political bloggers qualified to address this issue from both the technological and political points of view. Today I am discussing the technological issues around this legislation; tomorrow I’ll post the political problems with it.

This weekend I spent a lot of time poring over this legislation, blog posts, and white papers about it. I made my own notes and then merged my concerns of this legislation with those I found elsewhere on the Internet. This post is a fairly exhaustive list of the technological problems with SOPA and PIPA.

When a domain is seized, the pirated content still exists on the server. Additionally, it can still be accessed by its IP address. There is nothing, outside of draconian national firewall rules, that can be done to stop Americans from accessing this content.

Rick Santorum: The Candidate Who Would Be King

As we head into the South Carolina primary where former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum may still have a shot at the GOP nomination, it’s worth recalling what Sen. Santorum had to say about libertarians and others who favor limited government during an interview with NPR in August 2005:

One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a Libertarianish right. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. That is not how traditional conservatives view the world. There is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.

This has rightly riled many libertarians, who insist that the “radical individualism” derided by Santorum was the basis for the American experiment. But libertarians should really be thanking Rick Santorum. He’s provided us with a valuable reminder that far from being a limited government ally of libertarianism, traditional conservatism is actually inimical to libertarian principles. Traditional conservatism was America’s first statist, big government ideology.

Romney, Paul are the GOP’s best hope against Obama

We frequently hear that Mitt Romney does the best against Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup, making him the most electable candidate in a general election. However, the latest poll from CBS News shows Romney and Ron Paul doing better against Obama than their rivals in the race:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, run neck-and-neck with President Obama in a general-election matchup, according to a new CBS News poll released late on Monday that shows the two front-runners in Tuesday’s New Hampshire GOP primary running stronger against the president than their fellow Republicans.

Romney posts a two-point lead over Obama, 47 percent to 45 percent, within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. He leads Obama, 45 percent to 39 percent, among independent voters.

Obama’s lead over Paul is just one point, 46 percent to 45 percent, as Paul leads among independents by 7 points.

The president posts more significant leads over the other GOP candidates, but against each he is below the critical 50-percent threshold: He leads former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 49 percent to 41 percent; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, 48 percent to 41 percent; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 49 percent to 42 percent; and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., 47 percent to 43 percent.

New Hampshire Primary Live Blog

We’ll begin coverage on the returns this evening from New Hampshire within the next half hour or so. You can follow along via CNN or WMUR. You can read Jason’s primer on what to look for out of New Hampshire here.

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